Even though it is only July, Michigan Gas Utilities Corporation (MGU) is telling customers that unless the market price of natural gas falls considerably, they should prepare for increased heating costs this winter.
As a natural gas distribution company, MGU does not profit on the natural gas commodity, passing those actual costs on to customers.
“It’s very early, we know,” said spokesperson P. J. Livernois. “But summer natural gas
market prices are higher now than ever before. If that trend continues, we’ll see heating
costs this winter hundreds of dollars higher than last year. We’re giving our customers an early head’s up so they can plan and maybe make some preparations to reduce natural gas use.”
“At the same time, we’ll be doing what we can to make smart gas purchases so that the prices we pass along to customers are as low as possible.”
MGU is especially concerned about low-income customers and urges them to apply for energy assistance as soon as it becomes available. Those funds are usually limited and are exhausted quickly.
Historically, natural gas prices have eased somewhat just before winter. But high speculation in the marketplace, increased demand from utilities refilling storage following last year’s colder winter, and forecasts for an active hurricane season are holding prices high.
“We hope that market prices fall, but there is no guarantee,” Livernois said. “Everyone is feeling the pinch of higher prices across the board it seems, and no one wants to think about winter yet, but we should. Now is the time to plan for managing energy use and bills year-round. There are things we all can do.”
Energy conservation is the primary way to reduce energy use and bills. The company’s website has a section which provides tips and ideas to increase energy efficiency at little or no cost. Some quick and easy tips to conserve energy include:
• Raise the thermostat in the summer; lower it in the winter
• Close curtains and blinds during the day to keep rooms cooler in the summer; open them during the winter to let in warm sun rays
• Open doors and windows for cross ventilation in the summer
• Use shorter wash cycles and cold water rinse
• Always run FULL LOADS in dishwashers and clothes washers
• Clean lint filters in dryers
Low-Cost Investments That Pay You Back
• Tune-up heating and cooling systems
• Install ceiling fans
• Caulk around doors and windows
• Insulate outlets
• Fix drippy faucets
• Invest in CFL light bulbs
• Install a programmable thermostat
Budget Payment Plans
MGU strongly encourages customers to consider enrolling in the budget payment plan now. In the plan, customers pay an average bill monthly as opposed to seasonal highs and lows—ensuring more stable bills and allowing customers to avoid high bills that may be difficult to pay in winter months.
By signing up now, customers will pay more in the summer when they use less gas to build credit for the winter months. Spreading natural gas payments over the year allows customers to budget more accurately for their monthly payments and avoids big swings in bills.